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Back to the temple

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday 11th August), I arrived back at the temple…finally!

I was joined for the last 18 miles, from Battersea to Dagenham, by Mitsutake-san which was very much appreciated, as his energy gave me the push I needed for the last leg of the journey. I’m also very grateful to Simon, a member of our temple, who has been very supportive of the Angya trip, for joining us for the last part of the day. The three of us walked and chanted through Ilford and Goodmayes before reaching the temple in Dagenham at around 4:30pm.

There are more photos to come, and more details to fill in about the last few days of the trip which I haven’t been able to put up yet, but in the meantime, please enjoy the videos on the temple’s Facebook page, which Simon kindly took for a taste of the energy. (Unfortunately I can’t upload videos here)

https://www.facebook.com/NichirenShuUK/

Amazingly, as we made our way to the temple, we had one woman dancing to the Odaimoku, one man honked his car horn in time with our drumming, and people put their hands together from a pub garden we passed by.

It has been a wonderful time, and it will take some time to process everything from the last 3 weeks. I was fortunate to meet many wonderful people, and received lots of support to keep me going, which I’m very grateful for. Thank you everyone!

My prayer is that the sound of “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” which I chanted and drummed was able to awaken the sleeping Buddha-nature (the potential for enlightenment that everyone, without exception has) of everyone who heard it, and that they can go on to develop an enlightened mind, whatever path they take, and have peace and happiness.

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo!

Kanse poncho.jpg

“A singing bird in a cage attracts uncaged birds, and the sight of these uncaged birds will make the caged bird want to be free. Likewise, the chanting of the Odaimoku will bring out the Buddha-nature within ourselves.” –  (Hokke Shoshin Jōbutsu-shō) 13th c., by Nichiren Shonin, the founder of the Nichiren Shu school of Buddhism

The final countdown…

…stands at 18 miles, which means I will be finishing the Angya today. I have made it halfway across London, and this morning have made it to the Tower of london. If you would like to come and say hi or walk a bit with me, please get in touch. ETA at the temple is 3pm.

Gassho

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

Salisbury Sunday

Hello everyone! How are you?

Today started with a very nice treat, which was that Jonathan, a member of our temple, came up from Southampton to say hello. We met up by Salisbury cathedral and had breakfast. It was really good to see a familiar face and catch up. Thank you for coming up to say hi, and for the breakfast Jonathan!

After that I headed towards Andover, going first towards Old Serum and then heading towards the Wallops. The road took me along the perimeter of the Porton Down site that is home of the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) that has been in the news so much, connected with the Novichok poisonings.

From a distance it would appear you’re looking at just more fields:

But get closer (as always, when you’re walking you get to see so much more detail) and you’ll see signs like this one all along the fence:

I stopped at a biker café for a drink and to shelter from the sun, before continuing on to Middle Wallop. Thank you very much to the George Inn for letting me camp in their garden for the night!

I haven’t covered as much distance as I would have liked today. I guess I’ll just have to make up for it tomorrow…

I made it to Stonehenge!

On Wednesday evening I found myself in Sherborne, and it was suggested I enquire at the Abbey to see if they knew of anywhere I could stay.

I was told there was a patch of common ground by the railway station, with a stream running through it, so in the evening I headed there to find a spot to pitch my tent. As I was looking for a suitable campsite, I got talking to a man walking his dog who very kindly said I could camp in his garden. He and his family were very kind and not only let me camp there, but gave me some dinner, breakfast the next day (Thursday) and saw me off with a tour of the area around Sherborne castle before I headed off to Shaftesbury.

I walked on quiet roads and footpaths off the main road, so it was nice not to constantly have to watch traffic. When I got to a little place called Purse Candle, I asked a local farmer if the footpath marked on the map I’d been given was walkable and not too overgrown…he looked at my attire, and said after a pause, “Yeah, I think it should be fine.” I waited for him to move some cows along the road into a field nearby for fresher grass (it’s been so dry recently that the field they were in needed a rest), before making my way on the footpath.

Having received my detailed instructions from the farmer, and assurances that a style marked on the map was “probably still there” I went across wheatfields, through (very overgrown) gaps in hedgerows, and came out onto the road where I had planned to. From there it was quiet roads with little traffic all the way to Shaftesbury….the only thing was, there were no shops to speak of to get any food at which I had been banking on, so I managed on an apple and a peach.

Shaftesbury is a pretty town, which happens to be at the top of a MASSIVE hill. I arrived exhausted, at around 8pm and got myself a pint of coke and a pint of water at a pub. I’d been told that that pub was the best place to get food, but everything was a bit fancy, pricey, and probably not that filling, I reckoned. Besides, I was too tired to eat anyway, so decided to forget about food.

I found somewhere for the night, and filled up on the orange and chocolate chip cookies that were on offer. I had a bath, and felt human again.

Friday, I set off for Salisbury, not taking things too fast because of the heat which has been ramping up the last few days. I stopped to get some lunch at an inn (it almost sounds like a holiday!), and treated myself to another coke. Bad idea. My stomach felt a bit dodgy. I made use of the facilities, and took plenty of toilet paper just in case.

Luckily the terrain seems to be getting flatter, and luckily the road went around and not up this:

I made it to Fovant, and decided it was best to hitchhike from there to Salisbury. It was late in the day all ready (around 6pm) and I had booked an Airbnb in Salisbury for the princely sum of £18 for the night which I needed to check into. That and the fact that my stomach problem was not resolved ( constant concentration required and the situation exacerbated by walking) decided it for me.

A nice builder on his way to an auction in Salisbury gave me a lift and we covered the distance that would have taken me 4 hours to walk in 20 minutes.

Saturday (today) I visited Stonehenge, which I felt was important on this trip, as a site in England around 5000 years old with religious significance (although it’s exact propose remains shrouded in mystery).

Tomorrow I continue on towards Andover.

Gassho.

Friday – Wednesday

Well, well, well.

On Friday I walked from Bellever Forest Youth Hostel near Postbridge first to Moretonhampstead. Having used the public toilets and got something for lunch, I asked the locals about how big Dunsford was…I was told it was much smaller and only had one shop – a post office, which would probably be closed by the time I got there. I made the decision to press on anyway.

On the way out of Moretonhampstead a Danish tourist who had been to school for 6 months in Japan asked me about my clothes. He said, “Ganbatte” which means something like “good luck” or “do your best”.

Next I had my second Japanese interaction of the day – an older couple from Osaka were over on holiday and asked me about my robes. “Have you ever been to Japan?”, said the woman. When they found out that I was a Nichiren Shu Priest they were amazed that there I was, in England, on Dartmoor, with a drum, doing angya. “So strange!” she said, and got her husband to take a picture of us together. (Sorry I don’t have the photo)

I pushed on to Dunsford and having tried to find an appropriate field to camp in but failed, I knocked on the door of a nearby house to ask if there was somewhere I’d be out of the way. The lady kindly suggested a house that used their garden as a campsite for people, but it was 1.5 miles away and I wasn’t going to do that! She also said there was a youth hostel about half a mile back down the road I’d just come, so I turned around and went to look for it. By this point my feet were tired, and I just wanted somewhere to lay down. It turns out it wasn’t the sort of youth hostel you can just turn up at! By this point I’d had enough. Back I came to Dunsford, where I sat in the bus shelter for a bit feeling sorry for myself and working out what to do. I made up my mind to keep walking to Exeter with my reflective backpack, headtorch and handheld torch on the road ahead, a “night-hike”.

Before leaving the village I knocked on the door of one of the last houses, where a Hungarian family were staying on holiday to fill up my water bottle. They kindly let me camp in the garden (there was no space inside, with one of their 4 children all ready sleeping on the sofa downstairs), and invited me in to have some dinner.

The weather had turned and it was very windy and poured with rain – luckily the bamboo tent poles are still performing well. It was really cold that night, even with the thermal gilet I’d bought for night time in Tavistock. I woke up every hour or so, but managed to get some rest.

On Saturday morning I headed off to Exeter at 7:30am. It was too early to drum, so it was a chance to listen to nature. The only other people up were the farmers going about their morning chores. Several times during the trip I’ve yearned to just walk in silence and enjoy the countryside, but this tradition of angya, walking and chanting, isn’t for me.

Cycling seems to be the thing to do near Exeter on a Saturday morning – I must have passed more than 50 people on the walk. Three of them, separately all called “herrroooooo” (hello) in a silly, racist, fake Japanese accent to me on the way past…the third time I admit, I lost my temper and replied, “herrooo!!”

It was only later that I saw that day’s quote of the Lotus Sutra “quote of the day” I receive by email daily:

If anyone speaks ill of you, or threatens you
With swords, sticks, tile-pieces or stones
While you are expounding this sūtra,
Think of me, and be patient!

The rain managed to hold off until the last mile, when sudden showers pelted down and I scrambled to get my poncho on. I stopped to have some food, buy a razor to shave, and went to Specsavers to get more contact lenses. The woman who served me thought I was dressed for a star wars theme, which was perhaps plausible:

I walked through Exeter to the A360, but finally retreated as it looked too busy, it was raining and I’d had enough. I’d made it to Exeter. I’d achieved that. I could find some excuse to tell people, and I’d be forgiven for stopping there…

I stayed in Exeter Saturday night and Sunday night to hunker down from the rain, and recover myself. My planned schedule was now slipping away faster and faster, but I needed the time.

The week before I’d emailed my master in Japan, giving him what I thought was an update, but reading it back now, I was basically just complaining. He’d replied saying something like, “Oh Kanse, that is good. Now you are suffering. Continue as far as you can. Your practice of Angya is for other people. Do you understand?”

Did I understand!!?? That’s the whole reason I embarked on this trip! What did he think I was doing this for, a holiday? I’d much rather be at the temple, or maybe having a few days away somewhere, not walking 300 miles banging a drum for weeks!

…was my initial reaction. But after the two days in Exeter, I realised what he was pointing out was that my own challenge to myself was entwined with any altruistic intention I may have had. My initial reaction of irritation was because he was showing me myself. I no longer had any self-challenge steam left. I’d reached a turning point. Now the only way to continue was to think of other people. But I was worried if that would be enough.

On Monday morning I set off for Honiton. I realised there is a nice cycle route that goes the whole way, avoiding the A360. I ended up staying in Wilmington, just outside Honiton. From there, on Tuesday I walked 18 miles to Crewkerne.

I took small roads to walk in as straight a line as possible, but it was hilly! As a Cornish man, maybe that was why Captain James was so aware of the difficulties of the locals in his area climbing up the hill near his house!

On the way to Crewkerne I was stopped by the police for a third time (Somerset now – I’ve made it from Cornwall, through Devon into Somerset and as I write this am in Dorset), this time because of reports of a sword. I’m starting to wonder if that’s what they say to everyone walking on the side of the road if they want to talk to them…

The police officer said it wasn’t far to Crewkerne, so head down, I headed off and arrived after 8pm just before the light started properly disappearing.

At the beginning of the trip, when it started getting to 5pm I’d be worrying about where I was going to sleep – the natural human desire to be in control eating away at the potential walking time. As the trip has gone on though, I’ve forced myself to give up trying to have that control.

I arrived in Crewkerne with nowhere to stay, when Gail, who I’d passed all ready on the road a while ago, walked towards me and called, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo!”…amazing! She asked if she could give me bed for night me dinner…it didn’t take me very long to think about it! It turns out she is Buddhist and was in London helping out when the Battersea Peace Pagoda was being built. I am so grateful!

Today (Wednesday) the two of us walked and drummed, chanting “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,” through Crewkerne to the edge of town where we bid farewell, and I continued on to Yeovil alone.

When I arrive in a new town or village there are two things I look for: a toilet, and a bench to sit on. Who would have thought a bench could be so comfortable!? As I ate my packed lunch a lady from Hong Kong came to chat, and gave me encouragement and some money for food. I stopped to fill up my water bottle and then headed to the edge of town.

I had planned to walk along this road to get to Sherborne, and on google maps it doesn’t look like big road, but the traffic was going quite fast, and it was a dual carriageway with no grass verges. I sat down to look for alternative routes. There weren’t really any. Maybe the time to hitchhike had finally come. Just then a lady who had passed me on the road earlier came to ask what it was all about. She and her husband very kindly gave me a lift for the 4 miles to Sherborne to save me walking the dual carriageway.

I don’t have any pictures together with anyone I’ve met along the way, which is a shame. I know some have been taken. If you’re out there and reading this, and don’t mind sharing a photo, please drop me an email to kansecapon @ gmail.com. Us English are shy folks, I know, but it would be lovely to share. Or if not share, I’d love to have the pictures as momentos.

A big palms together to everyone!

It’s Friday?!

Starting where I left off, on Monday I made it to Liskeard and found a rather nice field to camp in that apparently is owned by the council.

A great sunset, the sound of sheep and cows in nearby fields, an opportunity to relax…apart from the boys playing football who wanted to know, “Why is there a teepee in our field?” and were very curious to investigate. Oh, and the dog being walked who also took a disliking to me being there. On the whole though, it was great and they were only minor interruptions.

Evening service, “Vagabond style”.

On Tuesday I continued walking (I don’t think I really need to write this, but just in case there were any doubts about my daily routine) and stopped in at Callington because I was running low on precious zinc oxide tape and wanted to get some from the Chemist there.

I was stopped by the police for the second time of the trip, this time because there were reports of a guy with a Samurai sword (at least it was culturally relevant this time).

As I got into Callington I was greeted by a Native American war-cry from some workers in a yard nearby, and a car drove past with two guys in hi-vis jackets who said, “Hello, how are you?” In the voice of Apu from the Simpsons. I’m not telling you this to write Callington off. Straight after that a lady came running up to me to bring me an oat flapjack. Her friend had met me the other day further down the road. She had seen a programme about the Tendai “Marathon Monks” who do the Sennichi Kaihogyo (a practise of walking across Mt Hiei to pray at various different shrines for 1000 days), and asked how come I was allowed to wear trainers… (they wear traditional Japanese straw sandals called waraji and get through a few pairs a day – slightly impractical in the UK).

Further down the road a mother with her son and daughter asked what it was all about, and the boy gave me his tangerine, the girl gave me her apple.

I stopped in at the chemist, but they didn’t have any zinc oxide tape – I’d have to get some more at my next stop.

I had money to buy an all-day vegetarian breakfast which was so good! It felt like my body had been re-charged. I saved the toast for a snack later on.

Having got fuel in the system, I headed on towards Gunnislake. My feet seem to be in better condition the last few days, having acclimatised and toughened up.

Around 6:30pm, as I was walking through St. Ann’s Chapel I got chatting to a mother with her two kids, who loved having a go on my drum. She called her neighbour (Wendy) who she knew would like to talk to me.

Having chatted, the first lady’s husband came out, and when he heard I was planning to camp in the nearby park he offered me the fold-out bed in his VW transporter van – thanks Nick! Very comfy, and much warmer than camping without a sleeping bag. I went to sleep as soon as I had finished sorting out my feet, even though it was probably only about 7:30pm. Their neighbour Wendy came later on in the evening with some dinner for me!

The next day (we’re on Wednesday now) I made my way to Tavistock, taking the backroads through little farm lanes. I’ve discovered sheep, pigs, cows and horses all like the sound of the drum…dogs, and especially sheep dogs guarding their farm on the other hand, are not so keen!

I arrived early in the day in Tavistock, and sat in the church gardens to get out of the sun. At 3pm I was able to check in to an Airbnb and wash all of my clothes (apart from my outer grey robe) for the first time! I had hesitated to ask to wash my clothes when being generously put up by people (usually late in the day) who weren’t expecting me.

Thursday morning I met up with someone for tea (Hi Vanessa!) before setting off into Dartmoor. It was very hot, but so beautiful and I really wish I had taken pictures of the sheep, and ponies roaming about.

Last night (Thursday) I stayed in Postbridge, right in the centre of Dartmoor, and today I head north towards M’hamstead and Dunsford to come out near Exeter. The weather is cooler today but it’s the first day there has been rain.

Thank you very much for your support and donations.

Gassho

Monday update

Well today is Monday (yes, I had to look that up)…

Since I last checked in, it’s difficult to describe everything that has happened.

From Calenick I made it only to Truro where I stayed on Friday to rest my feet. I ended up staying with a Buddhist and his partner, who has written essays on the Dhammapada (what are the chances in Truro!) and is a wellbeing coach. He gave me a little bottle of what I’ve come to call “magic ointment” which I think is based on aryuvedic medicine. It seems to help the blisters, so I’ve been strapping them up with zinc oxide tape in the day, and putting the onitment on at night and letting them air.

From Truro I went to a little campsite just outside Sticker and stayed there on Saturday night. Pretty campsite where everyone was very friendly. What I’ve realised though is that whole campsites might be good for people arriving by car and staying for a few days, if you’re travelling longer than that and need clothes washing, very few will be geared up for that. It’s also quite difficult to tend to my feet etc and keep everything clean when camping.

From there I headed through St Austell on Sunday, stopping in at Asda to get medical provisions (rash cream) and mozzarella and tomato wrap, some fruit both of which were amazing, and some museli bars to take for the journey. I also threw away my my old socks which I had tried to handwash to not much effect which had never had time to dry, and got new ones.

Back on the road again –

I was stopped by the police in the morning…I saw the police car drive past and then come back past me and pull up in a layby ahead of me. I thought, “here we go…” Turns out they’d had a call about some bloke walking down the road waving a machete about, but when they saw it was just me (some nutter walking down the road beating a drum and chanting) they said good luck and let me on my way.

This unusual hot weather is quite draining, so important to stay hydrated. Lots of drivers waving or tooting. Maybe this post should be called, “the goodness of people part 2). One guy gave me a magnum ice cream outside Asda. One lady came out from her house to give me a bottle of water on the way past (thanks Joanne), one couple invited me into their home in St Blazey and gave me a drink of water (thanks Danny’s mum). I’d met her son Danny the night before at the campsite near sticker. Small world. A couple of people have given me money along the way to buy food.

Last night (Sunday night) I arrived in Lostwithiel around 7pm, quite tired, feet very sore. Bob and Toops very kindly put me up for the night, cooked me dinner and made me breakfast in the morning. Toops even washed some of my clothes (I’m sure I must smell fairly medieval by now!) And made me a packed lunch.

Today I’m heading to Liskeard. I’d wanted to go a bit further, but the heat is sapping my energy, and that combined with my feet and other ailments, and drumming all the way probably means I’m only doing about 2 miles an hour.

Thank you everyone who’s tooted, said hi, given me money, water, ice cream or anything else on the way. It really has kept me going.

Gassho to all (palms together in respect)